Vilsack rips media over swine flu, I mean, H1N1

September 10, 2009

Hog markets are depressed. Farmers struggle to put food on the table. Hard times are seeping into the rural economy, hurting owners of grocery and hardware stores.

Blame the media, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, unleashing several lengthy rants about the evils of oversimplification during a 25-minute teleconference with reporters on Thursday.

Vilsack scolded the media for continuing to call the new strain of pandemic H1N1 flu by its more common name: swine flu.

“It is not swine flu,” Vilsack thundered. “Every time that is said, consumers get confused. Schools that are considering purchases for school lunch and school breakfast programs get confused, get worried.”

Vilsack implied that pork consumption is down because people worry they can catch swine flu — whoops, H1N1 — from eating pork. (You can’t.) Instead of stressing safety of pork, or sharing details about how the USDA plans to keep watch for the flu-that-shall-not-be-named in hogs, Vilsack dressed down reporters for harming farmers.

“I know this may seem difficult for people, or silly, unless you’re the pork producer, unless you’re out there trying to make a living and take care of your family,” said Vilsack, heading straight over the top.

“And you pick up the paper, you turn on the radio, you turn on the television, and you see this thing mischaracterized, and then you try to go to the market and sell your pork, and you get less than what you’re spending to produce it. And so you’ve got to tell your family you’ve got to do without.”

Now, we wouldn’t want to oversimplify the issue. Ripped from Reuters’ headlines, here are some facts about That Flu and hog markets.

* The virus is a mixture of two swine viruses, one of which also contains genetic material from birds and humans.
* Scientists believe the virus was circulating undetected for years, most likely in hogs, before it jumped to humans.
* The H1N1 virus has not yet been found in U.S. hogs.
* Swine flu viruses are not tracked like other livestock diseases because they are rarely fatal and because humans can’t catch them from eating pork.
* U.S. pork was banned in many overseas markets after the virus turned up in humans.
* All those markets have since reopened, except for China.
* U.S. hog producers have been losing money for almost two years because of high feed costs and the impact of the recession, which has hurt demand.
* Concerns about “swine flu” have not helped matters.
* Hog producers have urged the government to buy more pork for feeding programs than the USDA has thus far committed.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya (U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visits a corn plantation at Muguga in the outskirts of the Kenya’s capital Nairobi, August 4, 2009.)


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I agree that educating the public about the mportance of pork safety and how the USDA is monitoring the hogs for H1N1 needs to be done, and a good place to start is with the media. I personally wouldn’t solely blame the media as we all probably called it “swine flu” when the first stories came out. However, as we learn more from the Center for Disease Control this “flu” is referred to as novel H1N1 (not swine flue) and we should all do our part in calling it that, even the media.

Posted by Colleen | Report as abusive

Misplaced Priorities: Swine Flu vs. Smallpox:

Why is the central government making such a fuss about H1N1 Swine Influenza? And before that the H5N1Chicken Influenza? And before that the Duck Influenza A? Our government is telling us, if they don’t immunize our people, we might have another 1918 influenza panendemic.

Horse feathers! In 1918 we had no antibiotics to treat the secondary pneumonia and the bacterial pleural empyema that were the real killers back then. Today we have readily available, effective antibiotics and the physicians and surgeons who know how to use them. This, rather than some government immunization program, is the reason 1918 has not been repeated!

I find it ironic that it was the central government’s “expert,” Dr Anthony Fauci who capitulated to the demands of “President Cheney.” And disallowed patients and their personal physicians from being able to voluntarily immunize against smallpox. During the run up to Cheney’s phony war against Iraq. Cheney didn’t want (the extremely low incidence of) smallpox adverse reactions to spoil his little gift to the military industrial complex.

Since 1972,except for the military, there’s been no widespread smallpox immunization program in the United States. You must understand that, it is the loss of the herd immunity to smallpox that has left us highly vulnerable to smallpox biological warfare.

Attention! There is a distinct possibility that the Russians have sold weaponized smallpox to the Iranians. And in the event of an Iranian smallpox attack on our people, no Fauci crash smallpox immunization is going to save us. Why, Fauci and the federal government can’t even supply the vaccine, in a timely manner, in the relatively innocuous Swine Flu situation.

If you want to do something for the this country, Dr. Fauci, pull your head out of the sand, and go back and undo the smallpox trap that you and the CDC’s Dr. Julie Gerberding, on the orders of President Cheney, unwittingly, set for the American people. It’s for patients and their own physicians, not some group of government doctors, to decide re: smallpox vaccinations. Vaccinations that should be, instead, carried out in a timely and orderly fashion.

Listen! A biologic warfare smallpox attack on the American people, who are rapidly losing their herd immunity, is the real threat. Not the swine, chicken or duck flu. If you don’t believe me just ask the American Indian who, unlike the Europeans, had no centuries old vaccination program for, nor herd immunity to smallpox!

George Meredith MD
Virginia Beach

Posted by George Meredith MD | Report as abusive